Marriage’s greatest trial


A friend of mine just got married, and he was distressed that he and his wife already had a fight. Well, to be honest, she called it a fight; my buddy contends that it was just a disagreement. I guess you can say they’ve now had two fights … I mean, disagreements.

As always when people move in together, there’s bound to be an adjustment period where both sides need to give in a little to make things work. He was upset that, after just two weeks, a disagreement had come between them in their wedded bliss. He asked me for my sage advice.

I smiled and just shook my head, “You haven’t seen anything yet; you haven’t experienced marriage’s greatest trial. But you’re about to. ‘Tis the season.”
The greatest trial of marriage isn’t one of the obvious things. Gambling, drinking, or even cheating on a spouse all pale in comparison to what my young coworker will be facing this month – decorating the house for Christmas.

Yes, it’s as if a select few individuals got together and found a way to take the most joyful holiday event ever and add a ton of stress. Don’t believe holiday decorations will strain your marriage to the breaking point? Well, just read on, dear reader.

We’ll just use the tree for an example. If I discuss all the other Christmas decorations, this little column would quickly become a book as long and unwieldy as “War and Peace.”

First, do you buy real or fake? Tall or short? Buy a pre-lit tree or go through the drudgery of stringing all those lights? Is one bulb not working? I’ve got a solution that will save you hours of frustration!

Gather up the strands, and on your way out to the car, toss them into the trash. If your wife asks where you’re going, tell her you just gotta go to the place with the orange roof – they have a sale going on for the holidays.

So fake tree it is! But then you have a host of other problems. Here’s how it went around our house. Last week it was a trip to the attic, which took five hours. The small fake trees, one for each room, were found in the first five minutes of our search. Then I hit a board with my head.

A trip to the hospital and eight staples later, I went back to the attic, ducked under the board, tripped over a box, fell and stepped through the ceiling. Don’t worry; I didn’t fall far, just a foot.

It did turn out to be a step in the right direction because the box I tripped over revealed gifts from Christmas past. It’s not every day you come across the Magic Eight Ball, an egg of Silly Putty, or the original Slinky. It really is fun for a girl or a boy.

Once out of the attic, I put all the small trees in their correct rooms. Then it was time to decide about the main tree.

Would this be the year we bought a real one or would we still use the 20-year-old fake one? A more important question: where should it be placed? In the corner – the only logical place for a tree, by the way – or in the middle of the dining room so all the neighbors can see the lights?

Unfortunately, in order to do so, somebody (namely me) must move the huge heavy table and matching china cabinet out of the room first.
I consulted with the Magic Eight Ball, and it said consult the Slinky.

The Slinky had no answer. It just scared the cats as it slinked down the steps. So I put on a witch nose and Vulcan ears, all crafted carefully out of 30-year-old Silly Putty, and decided it was time to ask The Wife.

She had been working hard all day on her final paper for school. I was sure she would enjoy a little distraction. I tapped her on the shoulder and asked, “Should we buy a real tree or a fake one? And which room should it be in this year?”

Looking back, I don’t think she really needed a distraction after all. And she never commented on my handcrafted nose and ears. She grabbed the Magic Eight Ball and read the results. “It says if you don’t get a real tree from the lot downtown, your future looks cloudy.”

Once the mighty Eight Ball has spoken, you must obey. So still wearing my Silly Putty nose and ears, I was off in a dash. And yes, all the elves at the tree lot appreciated my festive look.

As I rode off with the tree tied to the roof of my sleigh, they couldn’t stop pointing and laughing. But at least I didn’t start a holiday fight … or disagreement.

Merry Christmas from The Wife and me.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, has been a firefighter for more than two decades and a columnist for The Citizen since 2001. His email is]